I picked this book up in a used book store in London one year ago because I already recognized it, always being prominently displayed in every German book store. Now it took me nearly one year to finally pick it up from my shelf. I expected something humorous or possibly hilarious. This I expected quite rightly because every praise on the cover used the word 'funny'.
Unfortunately I didn't find the story or the characters particularly amusing. Valentina is a 36 years old Ukrainian woman, who wants to live in the UK. So she marries Nikolai Mayevsky, a 84 years old Ukrainian immigrant. Valentina makes life to hell for Nikolai, that is where his daughters come in. They want to help their father out of his desperate situation and Valentina out of their mother's kitchen.
The language Lewycka used is the only thing that caused me to giggle from time to time, because it's a lively mix of English used by Ukrainian immigrants. Otherwise there is very much dark humor spread over the pages, mainly a greedy woman abusing an old man, making fun of him and his daughters trying to help him out of a tragic situation he doesn't acknowledge being in, more often than not bitching at Valentina, who seeks a better life for herself and her son.
The fifty years of darkest European history which were meant to be uncovered weren't as insightful as I hoped for. I would have liked a little input about Siberian labor camps, but as Nikolai's family seeks to keep the past under tight wraps, not much insight is allowed.
Somewhat generous 3 stars.